Eleven years ago God tapped Chuck Brooks on the shoulder and gave the contractor and homeowner an assignment that would be a game changer to help rebuild Detroit.
The circumstances were scary to put it mildly.
It happened when Brooks was lying face down in pools of his own blood on a Detroit street. Someone had just tried to carjack his truck. He resisted and was shot in a main artery. He was bleeding out. He began reciting the 23rd Psalm but passed out before he finished.
“The ambulance turned the lights off on the way to the hospital,” he said. “They thought I was dead.”
He lived through it all and is now working on his “assignment” … rebuilding Detroit one brick and one house at a time.
He tells his story of triumphs and tribulations in his book “The Castle.” There is a book signing this weekend at 4234 Lakewood on Saturday, April 9, from 3-6 pm and on Sunday, April 10, from 2-7 pm. All proceeds from the book go to help rebuild Detroit.
Over the next 11 years, Brooks has rehabilitated almost one acre of land at the corner of Lakewood and Waveney just off Chalmers on Detroit’s east side. The project, called The Castle, has survived a fire, basement flooding, removing piles and piles of debris as well as Brooks’ own rehabilitation, both physical and spiritual.
He started the task with no plan other than just building a garage for his construction company.
“The Lord said ‘work with me and do my plan’ … WOW!” Brook says. “The shooting changed my life.”
What you see today is a beautiful home, two 12-car garages, one eight-car garage, a fountain and piles of construction material ready for the next assignment. He’s not sure what that is but “the Lord will take care of it,” he says.
Brooks, who owns Unique Construction, compares building The Castle to Noah’s Ark. Like Noah he did as commanded without asking why … at least not anymore.
As he was recovering in the hospital he debated with God on his worthiness to do the project. “God keep telling me ‘you will do the impossible,’” Brooks says.
But he still felt unworthy and that feeling continued as he left the hospital with a walker. His personal life was in shambles. He was going through a divorce. His business was in the tank. The house was in foreclosure. The utilities were ready to be turned off and his company truck was ready to be repossessed.
Brooks was in deep depression, ready to leave Detroit and contemplating suicide.
It wasn’t until the repo man came that the light began to shine brighter.
On his first and second tries the repo guy said a voice came to him, saying not to take the truck. As you might guess the repossession company didn’t take kindly to that and sent him back out. This time the truck was blocked in so he had to knock on the door.
Brooks had just started walking again using his walker so it took a little while to get to the door. He described the man as a “nasty fellow” until he noticed the walker. He asked what happened and Brooks told him his story. The results of the shooting were quite evident since the truck still had bullet holes in it.
The repo guy started crying and told him while he was not a religious man he had twice heard a voice telling him not to take truck. He called the repo company to see if he could help. Brooks told his story to several people, all of whom transferred him. Finally, the seventh guy gave him more time to catch up with his payments.
“The repo guy told me he’d never seen anything like that before and told me to keep praying,” he says.
And pray he did, often in the middle of the night. Sometimes he could be found kneeling at 3:00 a.m. in the debris-packed area behind his house, asking what his next project should be.
He’s now cleaning up that property, where the debris was so deep it ran at least three feet up the old tree sitting in the yard. He had to take the debris pile down to ground level before starting any rebuilding. He’ll renovate that old house and turn it into whatever he’s assigned.
There have been many other projects and, so far, he has done all of them without the help of the city, although he asked many times.
He had to put in his own curbs and sewers by his property to keep the water out of his basement. There was no help from the city for this or any of his projects.
“It was a tough time but the Lord corrected things in my life,” he says. “During that time I did everything possible to fix things but nothing worked. I found out the problem was me and I learned to appreciate God more. The Lord developed something in me and I learned to pray for those treated me badly.”
Another project was a fountain next to his house. A big project for sure, but much bigger than he thought. He found out there had been a house there. When it was torn down all the debris was bulldozed into the basement and covered up so it had to be removed before the fountain could even be started.
It’s done now and it’s called The Garden of Eden.
Walking along the property you’ll find many other signs of Brooks’ faith from Bible references on the brick pillars that are part of the fence around the property to street signs such as Inspiration Lane and Hope Avenue. Psalm 23 is on the pillar in front of the entrance to the home he shares with wife, Charlene. They are back together and his business is doing well.
“I must share my story because I know there are others in Detroit and all over the world who are going through similar circumstances,” he wrote on the brochure about the book signing. “Some of you have even given up on the city.
“Now that I have swept around my own door I will continue re-building Detroit brick by brick, one house at a time. With your help we can increase those numbers.”